Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A WW II flag of honor reminds me of freedom’s price on Independence Day July 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:38 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Four flags, including an American flag that flew in Iraq, stand in the narthex of Trinity Lutheran Church, Faribault, Minnesota.

FOUR FLAGS STAND in a circle in the Trinity Lutheran Church narthex—two American flags, the other two unrecognizable to me.

So I inquire on this Sunday morning, this Fourth of July, this day we celebrate our nation’s birthday, this day of independence.

The one flag, with the big blue star in the center and the smaller white stars along the sides belongs to Kathy, who manages the church office. She knows nothing about its background, only that she purchased and proudly flies this red-white-and-blue at her home along with an American flag.

But the other flag, oh, the large star-studded flag, draws the attention of many. “What is this flag?” we ask each other as we unfold the fabric to reveal a sea of stars on white fabric bordered by red.

The women of Trinity Lutheran Church stitched this WW II honor flag.

And no one knows, until Dave arrives and uncovers the mystery. It is, he says, a flag recognizing those congregational men and women who served our country during WW II. The blue stars denote all who served. The six gold stars hand-stitched atop six blue stars honor those who never came home.

Six gold stars represent the six Trinity members who gave the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, during WW II.

I stand there awed, really, that so many individuals from this German Lutheran church in a mid-sized Minnesota community answered the call to duty during a single war. My friend Lee and I count: 162 blue stars and six double stars of gold upon blue.

The blue stars number 162, one for every Trinity member serving in WW II.

Six young men gave their lives for their country. The thought of such grief within a single congregational family overwhelms me.

I feel now as if I am viewing a sacred cloth. I wonder how many tears fell upon this flag as the ladies of the congregation stitched these stars.

I lift the flag, gently flip the fabric to the back side and examine the even machine-stitching on the blue stars. And then I examine the long, uneven stitches on the gold stars, sewn in place by hand.

Hand-stitching on the backs of two gold stars honoring those who died. The outer row is machine-stitching, holding the blue stars in place.

Dave tells us the flag stood at the front of the church, as did similar flags at churches through-out our community of Faribault. Roger steps up, says he remembers a smaller flag in the church he attended during WW II.

And if Dave’s memory serves him right, this flag remained on display until the end of the war.

Today I am glad, even though also saddened, that this flag of honor has been taken out of storage and put on display. For this one morning, on this Independence Day, those of us gathered here freely to worship have been reminded again that freedom does not come without a price.

A view of three of the flags, looking into the sanctuary, centered by a cross.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling